Demolition Downtown JNEM

Lost: Claes and Lehnbeuter Mfg. Co. Building

by Michael R. Allen

Photograph by Cindi Longwisch for Landmarks Association of St. Louis.

The Claes and Lehnbeuter Manufacturing Company Building stood at 2128-30 Washington Avenue from construction in 1891 through demolition in March 1997 (just a month after the Miss Hullings Building). Claes and Lehnbeuter manufactured store, office, bank and saloon fixtures. According to E.D. Kargau’s Mercantile, Industrial and Professional St. Louis (1894), the company was founded by Caspar Claes and Joseoph Lehnbeuter in 1861 and the company’s first home was on the south side of Market Street between Second and Third (inside of the present boundaries of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial). After moving to a large home on Seventh Street between Walnut and Clark, the firm built its own “massive building” where over 300 workers were employed.

The site is now a vacant lot.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

Still Trying to Make Sense of the Gateway Mall

The western end of the Gateway Mall in 1970.

This week Landmarks Association presents a lecture and a tour related to the impact of the City Beautiful movement on downtown park space:

Lecture: “Making Parks in the Central City: The Evolution of the Gateway Mall”
When: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Location: Architecture St. Louis, 911 Washington Avenue, Suite 170

Michael R. Allen will give a provocative illustrated lecture on the evolution of the Gateway Mall, the never-finished downtown park mall. Starting in the early 20th century with the local City Beautiful movement and the idea of creating parks in the crowded central city, the mall project moved through various plans, revisions and missed opportunities. The city’s 2007 Gateway Mall Master Plan is only the latest attempt to make sense of an idea gone astray in its implementation. Recent discussion about “activating” the Arch grounds renews attention on downtown’s park problem: more open space than activity. Free.

Walking Tour of Memorial Plaza
When: Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.
Location: Meet at East entrance to the Civil Courts Building, 11th and Market streets.

Envisioned as a monumental civic center, the city’s Memorial Plaza area contains a distinguished group of grand public buildings, including the Civil Courts, former Federal Courthouse, City Hall, Municipal Courts, Kiel Opera House, Soldiers Memorial and the Central Library. Led by veteran downtown tour guide Richard Mueller, our tour will cover the buildings and parks that make up the plaza area, with planned stops inside some of the buildings. Reservations requested: 314-421-6474. Free.

This program is part of “Architecture Weekends,” generously funded by the Whitaker Foundation.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

Vintage Old Cathedral View

by Michael R. Allen

This 1950s-era postcard view of the Old Cathedral is intriguing. Most of what is seen here around the cathedral is gone: the small buildings on Third Street seen at left, the Pierce Building in the background (well, it’s now reclad as part of the old Adam’s Mark Hotel), the Merchant’s Exchange, the residence next door and the free-standing column in the foreground (from the United States Courts and Custom House, already demolished). I wonder where that column went!

What is also missing is the free connection between downtown and what would become the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. That row of buildings at left is right across the street from what was then the mostly-cleared site. People working, shopping and eating in those buildings had great views of the new Memorial site. Could we ever rebuild that western edge to be so urban? Not without removing the interstate highway first.

Downtown I-70 Removal JNEM Streets

Memorial Boulevard

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday evening I happened to be driving south on I-70 through downtown St. Louis. Often this drive passes by and barely registers in my mind, but this time I could not help but vividly see something — something that was not there. As I rode the elevated lanes that divide and conquer the area between downtown and the riverfront, I looked south at the point where 4th Street comes close to I-70. There, the highway and the street form a wedge shape filled by overabundant sidewalk space, a parking lot and the Hampton Inn.

I imagined that instead of being elevated ahead of a descent, I was driving at grade from Cass Avenue all of the way to the Poplar Street Bridge. The highway became an urban thoroughfare allowing for easy local access and great views. I could foresee stopping at traffic lights as pedestrians walked from the casino over to restaurants on Washington Avenue, or from downtown apartments to the river for a stroll. Instead of a gravel lot, I saw a completed Bottle District with modern mid-rise residential buildings. Lumiere Place presented an attractive face to downtown.

Straight ahead, I did not see the weary concrete sidewalks and parking lot ahead of the Hampton Inn, but a new flatiron office building with a fountain in the middle of the plaza where traffic between the boulevard merged with Fourth Street. The sensation was akin to the view of downtown Chicago offered at the point near the Drake Hotel where Lake Shore Drive meets the north end of Michigan Avenue. That view always gives me a giddy feeling, because the essence of the entire urban density of Chicago seems to come into view there. The options there are staying on Lake Shore Drive for the breathtaking view of the lake or turning off onto the Magnificent Mile. There is no mediocrity in sight.

Yesterday, I saw a similar picture. I could make a right turn and veer off into the excitement of downtown, lured by the refined architecture of the Missouri Athletic Club, or head straight for that section of downtown that is right at the Gateway Arch. Either way I was going to see our urban core at its best. When I was right at the Arch, instead of dangerously looking up through aging concrete infrastructure, I caught a red light and had at least 20 seconds to take in the glistening sheen of the Arch skin reflecting the golden sunset.

Downtown Green Space I-70 Removal JNEM Planning

Landmarks Association Comment on JNEM Management Plan Calls for Better Connections

Landmarks Association of St. Louis submitted the following comment on the draft General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to the National Park Service:

Landmarks Association of St. Louis, Inc. was founded in 1959 with a mission to “promote, preserve and enhance St. Louis’ architectural heritage and encourage sound planning and good contemporary design.” Both facets of our mission statement compel our comment on the draft General Management Plan (GMP) for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM).

Generally, we find that the GMP includes many strong and useful ideas for a future design program that would preserve the unique modern landscape of the Arch grounds while transforming the connections between the landscape and surrounding urban fabric. Landmarks Association commends the National Park Service (NPS) on recognizing the extent to which the condition of the existing connections are a hindrance to both JNEM and downtown St. Louis. We are supportive of many of the ideas common to all of the Alternatives under consideration, including streetscape unification plans, improvements to interpretive programming and museum exhibits, increased visitor activities, improved pedestrian access and encouragement of development of the east riverfront.

True to our mission, Landmarks Association makes the following recommendations for the final GMP to clarify preservation of the Arch grounds and expand the range of possible options for improving connectivity:

1. The NPS should allow removal of I-70 in the GMP. The presence of I-70 at the western edge of the Arch grounds is the biggest obstacle to pedestrian access, at the Old Courthouse, Washington Avenue and other major entrance points. With the projected opening in 2012 of a new Mississippi River Bridge carrying I-70, the elevated and depressed lanes that sever the Arch grounds from downtown will no longer be necessary interstate lanes. One possibility at that time would be exploring a merger of I-70 and Memorial Drive into an attractive at-grade boulevard that would carry through traffic while creating a softer, pedestrian-friendly western edge to the Arch grounds. This idea could be explored through a design competition and traffic study. The current GMP alternatives would not allow exploration of this idea. The final GMP should include removal of I-70 within the parameters of a design competition.

2. The GMP should contain other options for a design competition. The NPS has included in the GMP alternatives a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the problems and opportunities of improved access to the Arch grounds. The preferred alternative calls for a major design competition for resolution of these issues, but we think that NPS has already created a framework for practical, incremental solutions. We think that a major design competition has the potential to generate design ideas incompatible with a landscape designated as a National Historic Landmark containing an iconic work of modern architecture. Division of the competition into phases based on specific areas where there are access problems could allow for an incremental implementation that resolves design problems faster and preserves the integrity of the JNEM landscape. An incremental approach would also allow time to build needed alliances with public and private entities that control infrastructure crucial to improved access but not contained within JNEM. The GMP should not bind the process to a single major design competition.

3. Site history must be part of program expansion. The St. Louis riverfront was the entry point into the city for nearly 200 years. The riverfront’s architectural, commercial and cultural history is key to understanding the significance of the JNEM site, and current interpretive program could be expanded to better tell that story. Architectural elements and artifacts from the riverfront could be prominently displayed in existing or new JNEM cultural facilities or made part of new construction.

4. The GMP should improve access and connections at all sides of the Arch grounds. The current GMP alternatives are weighted toward improvement of access at the western side of the grounds. Improved access at both the south and north ends of the grounds could forge connections between JNEM and the Chouteau’s Landing and Laclede’s Landing areas, both of whose development have suffered from circulation problems. The north end of the Arch grounds are adjacent to the historic Eads Bridge and its MetroLink station, but currently access and visibility of those resources from JNEM is impaired. The central riverfront is unattractive and lacks adequate pedestrian access. We strongly feel that preservation of the cobblestone levee is crucial to the integrity of the riverfront, but feel that parking is an inappropriate use of that levee. While not directly under NPS control, the riverfront offers possibilities for destination-type activity ranging from heritage education to restaurants or other venues on boats and moored structures. Improving activity on the levee itself is key to drawing JNEM visitors to the river itself.

Downtown Green Space JNEM

National Park Service Video on Arch Grounds

The public has only until Monday, March 16 to submit comments on the National Park Service’s draft General Management Plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Read the draft plan here. Make your comments online here.

Downtown Infrastructure JNEM Laclede's Landing

Beautiful View?

Downtown East St. Louis, Illinois Green Space I-70 Removal JNEM Laclede's Landing Planning Riverfront

Drawing the Connections

by Michael R. Allen

Robert W. Duffy’s article “To connect the Arch to the city (and the river), find the middle” in the Beacon broadcasts the good news from this weekend: a group of concerned citizens forged a coalition to address the issue of reconnecting downtown St. Louis to the Arch grounds and the riverfront, and vice versa.

The meeting and consensus for forward movement potentially could tie together many disparate strands of thinking:

  • Former Senator Jack Danforth’s call for improving access to the Arch grounds and making the setting more attractive.
  • The notion of removing I-70 downtown advanced by Rick Bonasch, myself and others, which is enabled by construction of a new Mississippi River Bridge north of downtown.
  • The National Park Service’s release of a draft General Management plan for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
  • The call from open space advocates and preservationists to refocus public discussion from the museum prospect on connecting the Arch grounds to surrounding urban fabric.
  • The outpouring of many good ideas in the recent student charrette on the Arch grounds and riverfront.
  • Mayor Slay’s recent attempt to focus planning energy on the St. Louis riverfront.
  • Chivvis Development’s efforts to revitalize Chouteau’s Landing.
  • Plans by Great Rivers Greenway District to develop a South Rivefront Trail that would connect to the North Riverfront Trail in front of the Arch.
  • Plans for new development at the Bottle District and a second phase of Lumiere Place north of downtown.
  • Ongoing efforts to redevelop the North Riverfront Industrial Historic District north of Lumiere Place.
  • Efforts to improve the East St. Louis riverfront, including construction of an architectural museum.Finally, there is the very real prospect that the Obama administration will look for an initial wave of federally-funded public works projects and will push for long-term funding for urban infrastructure projects.

    All of these ideas and plans are in various stages of reality. Most have yet to move beyond talking points and renderings. Isn’t the moment ripe to link these plans together through a master vision for the central St. Louis riverfront? The people who came together on Saturday think so, and will spend the next few months trying to link the many ideas for making the city’s front entrance a beautiful one.

  • Categories
    Downtown Events Green Space JNEM

    Arch Charrette Exhibit Opening on Wednesday

    by Michael R. Allen

    Display board screated by the teams that participated in the St. Louis Arch Grounds / Riverfront Interdisciplinary Student Design Charrette in November will be on display at Landmarks’ Architecture St. Louis gallery from December 3 through January 15. Come immerse yourself in creative options for better connecting the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and riverfront to the city fabric.

    Join us for the opening reception:

    When: Wednesday, December 3 from 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.

    Where: Architecture St. Louis, 911 Washington Avenue #170

    The exhibit will be on display at Architecture St. Louis from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday through January 15, 2009.

    Downtown Green Space JNEM

    Danforth Withdraws Museum Plan? (Updated)

    by Michael R. Allen


    The rumor of complete withdrawal was premature, and Edde Roth has the Danforth Foundation version:

    The foundation did write a letter to the Interior Department saying that the stock market drop would make it difficult to fund such a project at the $50 million it had pledged, according to the spokesman, but the Foundation “remains as interested in ever in the museum concept” and “if and when the (National Park Service) comes back with a proposal that the Foundation can support, the Foundation will support it at the level its finances will permit.”

    This is an inversion of Danforth’s original call for a museum, and is exactly where the parties need to be. Danforth has sparked a public debate, and now the government entity responsible for the Memorial has responded with an official planning process. Danforth is no longer the voice in the wild, but part of an emerging coalition of stakeholders with different visions for the Memorial. At this stage, the National Park Service should lead to ensure that private visions are mediated through a public process. Danforth and others can take or leave the end result which, as with all things meted out through democratic process, will be a compromise of visions within the legal limits set forth by our government. I think that the Danforth Foundation should be commended for its proper response to the National Park Service draft management plan. This is a graceful step that will enable the draft management plan to be released and reviewed without unnecessary controversy.


    Late last week, John Danforth sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne stating that the Danforth Foundation no longer intends to build a museum on the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. According to Danforth, his foundation’s financial health has weakened in the current economic downturn.